The Whole Shebang

So, I’m having a conversation one day with my firstborn daughter (4 years old) when she realizes that a “navel” can be your belly button or a type of orange. Likewise, in reading American Civil War diary entries, I recognized that “shebang” can mean “a matter, operation, or set of circumstances” or “a rough hut or shelter.”

The Whole Shebang (Photo: michaelshannon.wordpress.com)

Although not an enlisted man, Samuel Andrew Agnew wrote from the perspective of a resident in Corinth, MS of the war’s goings on there, noting that current operations needed to change:

Seals were in the crowd. Norton tells me that Jettie Richey got home last night from Ham’s Camp. He reports that on Saturday next they will reorganize the whole “shebang” in pursuance of Gov. Clark’s orders. In reorganizing they enlist for 2 years. (Source: The Civil War Day by Day)

Shebang can also be the most humble dwelling quarters of a weary soldier during the war. I’m always amazed at the details at length that soldiers recorded in order to paint a clear picture of their temporary residence. I think this reflects the significance of their need for a home away from home. Our bodies need familiarity, I think, when it comes to the specific place where we lay our heads every night. More so, I believe soldiers needed this comfort, considering the fact that the nature of their circumstances could change at a minute’s notice. If you will, a change in one’s shebang could alter their other shebang. This is what “Jenk” writes about his setup:

Busy most of the time completing “shebang”. Very small, but quite cozy for two soldiers. It is 6 ft. by 8 ft., 4½ ft. high on the side. Door is in front, 18 in. by 30 in., by side of which is chimney—18 in. stack. Bunk in back, 4 ft. wide. At the foot of it is the writing desk, opposite is hardtack box for cupboard, etc. (Source: Daily Observations from the Civil War)

Until next time, SHEBANG!

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